Trans people exist

Trans people exist. It’s a simple point, but very hard to convince the anti-trans campaigners. How would you feel if a priest said to you, “I’m glad you are here. Please come say hello; I would love to hear more about your perspective and experience”? It might be enough for a Christian trans person to feel welcome, and want to join that community. It is what we know. But it is gaslighting: the theology professor suggesting it wants the priest to convince the trans person of the “Catholic understanding of reality”.

Her explanation of that reality is crude. She actually relies on Genesis: sexual difference as fixed and God-given. But she thinks she is being inclusive, and approaching trans people “with a spirit of generous curiosity: What truth will I find here?”

The problem is she believes in “gender theory”. We are not trans, really: we simply have false beliefs. Now I get that completely. I believe I am a woman, and many say I am not. Surely I could be persuaded otherwise? Or, I want to be a woman, but could be told that is impossible?

The point of being trans is that persuasion does not work. Tell me that someone born with testicles, a Y chromosome and a penis is not a woman, and I redefine the word “woman”. I understand why the denier might believe that. It makes a certain sort of sense. But I still believe I am a woman. I still want to be a woman.

Trans people exist. Trans women are people born with testicles who want to be women or believe they are women, who desire to transition and so do that. Before I transitioned, I really wanted to believe that I was “not really trans” and therefore should not transition, and I wanted to get rid of the desire, which because of internalised transphobia I thought repellent and ridiculous. But I failed. So I transitioned, and twenty years later am still transitioned.

Trans people exist. We’re the ones who want to transition and stay transitioned. We get how others feel this is ridiculous, but however cogent the arguments are against, we still want to stay transitioned. You can’t argue or persuade us out of it. Eventually, one would hope the anti-trans campaigners would realise that, and stop trying the arguments that don’t work- but they don’t.

So the “theory” or ideology, the false understanding of the world, is not trans people’s, but the anti-trans campaigners’. Our understanding accepts that trans people exist. Theirs doesn’t. They think, contrary to all the evidence, that we should simply be persuaded that we are wrong, and so detransition.

That theologian, Abigail Favale, believes “there is a givenness to the created order”- that is, that the real world has reality humans just have to accept. She thinks that means that trans women are men. But what it really means is that trans people exist.

She is not above taking arguments from the “feminist” anti-trans campaigners. Women’s lives, she says, are “contoured by the facticity of femaleness”. I think she means if you don’t have a womb you’re not a woman, though elsewhere she writes that being born a woman without a uterus is a “sex-specific” difference of sexual development, so that the person is still a woman.

In her world, the person welcomed by that priest would accept “the Catholic view of reality” and presumably stop taking hormones or seeking surgery. Would they be happy? She does not address the question. They would simply be conforming. Would Favale even notice they were miserable and unfulfilled? So, when we leave, and find a community that accepts us, Favale would be sad and uncomprehending, imagining we are mired in sin and delusion.

Trans people exist. Anti-trans campaigners can’t see that. Perhaps they’re only trying to persuade cis people- but then, they do not care about us at all, except as a problem they want to go away.

Catholic transphobia

Catholics are taught to hate and fear trans folk. US Catholic bishops have signed a letter seeing us not as individuals but as some nebulous threat: The movement today to enforce the false idea—that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa—is deeply troubling. It compels people to either go against reason—that is, to agree with something that is not true—or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.

Most of us just want to be left alone. We shun recognition because of hatred like this letter preaches. The letter casts the transphobes as victims, of unnamed “retaliation”, which justifies them in dehumanising and oppressing us.

I never asked anyone to “agree with something that is not true”. Instead, I ask them to recognise my humanity, and my right to pursue my desires, as long as I harm no-one else. That means treating me with courtesy. Some may think me a man, but I ask them not to make that obvious every time we meet: so they should use my name and correct pronouns. Why should these old men appoint themselves judges of what is “true”? Rigid consistent notions of truth leave no room for diversity or complexity, for the love and life which bishops should nurture. Society is in flux. Rather than clinging to their old ideas of Truth they should be open to how the Holy Spirit moves in humanity.

For they are deeply conservative, and any radical feminist should avoid saying anything which might encourage them. We come together to join our voices- pompous, portentous rubbish showing fear and anger- on a more fundamental precept of our shared existence, namely, that human beings are male or female and that the socio-cultural reality of gender cannot be separated from one’s sex as male or female. Gender cannot be separated from sex. God has ordained, according to these old fools, that women must be feminine, men masculine, according to their definitions not any sane psychology of humanity.

They use positive words, then weasel words which eat away all the love. They only fool themselves that they are loving. A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth. Each person deserves to be heard and treated with respect; it is our responsibility to respond to their concerns with compassion, mercy and honesty. “Truth”; “Honesty”- no, their ridiculous insistance that children conform to their ideas of gender. So there can be no sensitivity, no comprehension of complicated reality, no respect, compassion or mercy.

Their wicked ideas of gender must be enforced rigorously on children, they say. Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex or, further, given hormones. Whip the sissy out of that boy! It’s the only “loving” way! Note the scaremongering of “given hormones”- children getting puberty blockers is incredibly rare. There is a stupid and arrogant insistence that they know more about medicine than doctors: we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm”- as if the whole letter was not urging harm.

We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. A lie, immediately contradicted. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all. No, not privacy and safety, but the enforcement of their idea of truth.

I hate their self-deluded claims to virtue. Desire health and happiness, forsooth, or “authentic support” of trans people to reject our God-given nature. It is a wonderful example of delusion, these ridiculous Catholics, joining with the tiny “Anglican Church of North America”, a splinter group claiming 134,000 members in the US and Canada but with an eejit styling himself “Archbishop and Primate”. Oh, here’s some fool calling himself “Melchizedek”, after the Eternal priest. He is Orthodox, and claims 90,000 members in the US. The “North American Lutheran Church” is another recent splinter group, claiming 141,000 members who cannot stay in communion with Lutherans in the US. There is a token Muslim who styles himself “imam” and has founded his own Islamic Society of the Washington Area. They are all pathetic and ridiculous, yet their malice is all the stronger for their claims to “Love”, and they have some influence on poor fools, who they would order to torture children in the name of “Truth”.

Lest we forget, they hate gay people too. They affirm our commitment to marriage as the union of one man and one woman and as the foundation of society. I fear for their victims; yet they are nervous and afraid. They would not bother with such bombastic drivel if they did not know that doctors and parents are accepting children as they really are, and trans people are treated with growing acceptance and respect.

Oh, google the original if you must.


I hate Fatima. 

I was only half joking when I said I might have a religious experience and go all pious at Fatima. The place is designed to evoke that, most people are up for that, and I am suggestible. I had the opposite reaction. 

We had lunch in a caff, then approached from the South. There is a great deal of Catholic tat. 

Here is the new church, consecrated in 2007. 

I loathe it with a passion. It enraged me and I  needed to express that, forcefully. It is a windowless bunker. It is bearable inside, with all the light controlled:

It feels fascist to me. It is designed to make the individual worshipper feel insignificant. Jesus called me his sister, and every one of the hairs on my head is numbered, but here I am just one of the huge crowd. They have to cater for thousands of pilgrims but there must be better ways of doing it. 

We walked out the North side, and saw the other church, from 1957. Those things look like insect legs, or pincers. 

Christ is a gaunt insect, too. 

The other church is intimidating too, though a little less so. All those steps are unnecessary. Penitents go towards it on their knees: there are signs requesting we do not photograph them. 

Mass proceeds outside as we walk in. The stained glass is pretty. But all the art is the Stations of the Cross- an appearance of the Virgin should be a festival: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. 

I cross myself from the holy water stoup. The shock of cold water enlivens my senses to the present moment, and accepting the priest’s gift makes me more connected to the place.

Here is the tomb of a Little Shepherd, where people pray, or take photographs. I did both. Some leave gifts.  

Here is the totalitarian I blame for its totalitarian feel, especially shocking as it goes on about the fall of Communism.

The children photographed by him love him. 

The collonade is reminiscent of St. Peter’s plaza. 


To the cultural quarter. TristĂŁo e Isolda is next week, alas. We miss it. The overcast sky is not ideal for photos, but the Centro Cultural is beautiful, clad in rose stone. I walk a wide stone passageway up to the Berardo Collection, alone in the off-season, and it feels empowering and liberating, not at all like the stark concrete ravine west of the National Theatre in London.

The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is worth photographing in any light, even a phone snap which I cannot edit.

All the cloisters are intricately carved.

People are doing selfies, which I find difficult:

The refectory has stories in pictures, which I do not like.

The church from the gallery.

It is a tourist hubbub even now, so I say I want to pray, and go into a quieter side chapel. A woman presses her forehead to an altar below a statue of the Virgin.

There are so many artists in the Berardo overview of the twentieth century! I will not comment as I fear sounding Pooterish. Here is the church from the water garden.

Shrine co-ordinator

In the coffee shop, as we are leaving, S gets chatting to a woman she knew in the prison. Donna is a shrine co-ordinator. Oh, what’s that then? A great deal of work and difficulty she says. I press her.

She tells me of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. In 1531, the BVM appeared to Juan Diego, a poor man whose clothes were woven from cactus fibres. She told him to start a shrine to her, but the bishop said no. So she told him to go to the top of a hill, and pick flowers there. It was December, but he found Castilian roses, native to Spain rather than Mexico. As instructed he wrapped them in cactus cloth, and took them to the bishop. When they unwrapped the flowers, there was this image on the cloth.


The image is miraculous. There are no brush strokes visible, and no identifiable pigment. It has been analysed by NASA. Cactus cloth would normally break down in fifty years, but nearly five centuries later it is pristine. In 1910 there was a bomb taken into the chapel where it is kept, in a bunch of flowers (Mexican revolution, I presume) which blew out the windows but did not hurt anyone or damage the relic at all. In 1979 the Pope ordered two hundred digital copies, one for each country in the world. They are- I am not sure of the technical term she used, something like “effective relics”- looking on the copy gives the same blessing as looking on the original. She hands me a small piece of card with the image on it. They also have prayer cards and banners. She could send me one.

The small piece of card is enough for me, I say. I am not into devotional objects. My Angels at Mamre icon is quite enough. I find the card, on my side-table as I type, disturbing.

Her friend talks of the nuns at Nupton: they ran a care home, but have just been disbanded and sent to other communities all over the country. She shows a photo on her phone of the Bishop in full garb standing in front of a group of nuns at their last mass together. She then was guided to the death-bed of a woman, who was able to reach out from under the covers and take her hand. Anyone would find this moving, but she finds it Providential. She has just been to Medjugorge, where the BVM appeared in 1981, prophesying a terrible war.

I say I know S from the Quaker meeting, but have no interest in devotional objects, and a Richard Dawkins objection to talk of miracles. This shuts her down, and is too strong- I am interested in people’s beliefs, and can see that the relic may give someone reassurance or consolation- but is a measure of how disturbing I find talk of such things, as if they were true.

Her absolute certainty of the miraculous provenance of the relic is like the absolute certainty some Catholics have of the wrongness of LGBT. I hear the certainty of the relic, and wonder at its spiritual value for her; but such certainty can be poison.

Buy holy water!

Holy water, available on Amazon! What would you use it for? The happy reviewer wrote, living in shoreditch i have regular problems with foxes and vampires. This particular holy water didn’t work so well on the foxes but was just so effective against the undead. I splashed just a small amount on this vampire once and his whole face fell off.

The forum Catholic Answers- To explain and defend the Faith– debated this. Veteran member Dorothy said, Right away it is problematic, as new age “holy water” is not blessed by a priest. You can obtain holy water that is blessed from your Catholic Church. Note the scare quotes: make sure only to use proper, Catholic, holy water.

Porthos- probably not the Musketeer- said, Further, any blessed item loses its blessing when sold. Revert_Jen wanted to see citations for that: I suppose a controlled experiment could be held easily enough, unless experimenting on blessed items makes them lose their blessing too. Lovely, to see her Mediaeval way of finding truth prospering in the Catholic church.

I checked with eBay. If a blessed item is sold, the blessing is lost; to claim otherwise is the sin of Simony, and a mortal sin for the seller. Further, blessed items have no special power, only sentimental value. The Pope’s blessing is worth no more than a deacon’s, a rare non-hierarchical rule for his church. But this bit is odd: Any blessed item may be given to another person, whether that person is Catholic or not, and the blessing is retained. The exception to this is for items blessed under the old regulations on indulgences. These blessings have all been abolished. These blessings were personal and do not pass on to another person if the item is given as a gift. So, if someone were to give you an old indulgenced crucifix or rosary you would not be able to gain the indulgences. The item is, however, still considered blessed in the ordinary sense.

I had thought the RC church last sold indulgences before the counter-reformation.

eBay again: what about “Papal Blessings” obtained from Rome? In this case the person obtaining the blessing is paying for the parchment of declaration, packing and shipping, and any administrative fees. Remember, the people involved in producing the document and packing and shipping it must be paid. There is no charge for the blessing per se. Any fee is to pay those involved in the process of procuring and sending the document.

Parchment Papal blessings may be granted, if there is a nihil obstat, for the 18th and 50th birthdays and every decade thereafter, and requested in writing or by facsimile transmission equipment- telefax (+39) 06.69883132- but not by email or telephone.

Direct From Lourdes provides Lourdes Water, Rosary Beads, Miraculous Medals and a large collection of the best Catholic Gifts. Our fine range of quality and unique Religious Goods and Catholic Jewelry can be sent to any location worldwide. A grateful recipient writes, The Catholic Products were beautifully packaged and I am very pleased with the quality of your Catholic Gift Shop. I even cried when I opened the package and held the water in my hand. These things give many people a great deal of comfort.

Murillo, Maria Immaculata

Morality and contraception

Things happen. Human beings have purposes and intention. Things don’t.

Here’s the Catholic Church on contraception, taken as before from Rejection of Pascal’s Wager. John Chrysostom found it appalling: Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. Weird. Pius XI wrote, No reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything which is intrinsically against nature may become comformable with nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is designed primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purposely sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. So a condom to prevent spreading AIDS was forbidden by John Paul II.

The current position: Wikipedia’s source claims condoms were permitted by Benedict XVI; but Francis dodged the question, claiming other problems of Africa were more important. Indeed they are, and indeed the Pope crying out against poverty is a good thing; but one word permitting condoms where there is risk of AIDS transmission is not too much to ask. Francis referred to the “openness to life of the sexual act”.

A single celled eukaryote ancestor of all flora, fauna and fungi produced a gamete requiring another gamete to produce a new organism. How this evolved is a mystery. The result is to permit the evolution of complex, multicellular organisms, but that was not the purpose.

Orangutan females have sex with lots of males. A theory is that they are aware of fertility, mate with the best male when he will be the father, and mate with the others so that they will not kill an infant which might be their own. Humans have sex when infertile. This has the effect of bonding people together. It did not evolve with that purpose, but arose at random, and flourished because it promoted reproduction.

Sex is not designed. It has effects, and people do it to achieve those effects; and we ignore the risk of other effects because that, too, promotes reproduction: this forgetfulness flourishes. Natural law theory fails because it confuses is and ought; and because in this case it chooses the troublesome, rather than the pleasurable, effect of sex as its purpose. Thomas Aquinas said contraception is a grave sin and to be classified as a crime and against nature- I sourced that quote from Father Hardon– so the Roman Catholic Church is stuck with facilitating the spread of AIDS. I find that immoral- but I judge it by results, rather than by considering the acts causing them.

Hagia Sophia mosaic of John Chrysostom

The Catholic Church and abortion

They are against it. They imagine they have moral reasons for this. Their method of moral reasoning is inferior to mine. My method of moral reasoning fits free people; theirs fits people following the rules of an oligarchy.

Catholic morality is deontological, following rules. Certain acts are considered sins, whatever the consequences: the end never justifies the means, they say. My morality is at least in part consequentialist: I look at the intended result.

Can a foetus be aborted to save the life of the mother, when if it is not aborted both will die? No, they say: Two natural deaths are a lesser evil than one murder. John Paul II wrote, The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. “Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo. This is clearly not an argument: it is merely a reiteration of words, to be completely clear.

However, in the case of ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus has implanted in the fallopian tube, removal of that tube is permissible under the principle of double effect- the surgeon removes the tube, mutilating her and making pregnancy later less likely, in order to save the woman’s life, with the unintended consequence that the foetus dies. However, removal of the foetus from the fallopian tube, saving the tube, is not permitted, because that is the direct act of killing the foetus.

I analyse this situation by its consequences. This is named consequentialist ethics. Consider the choices:

  1. Remove the foetus without damaging the tube. The foetus is dead, the woman’s life is saved, she retains her chances of pregnancy later.
  2. Remove the foetus and the tube. The foetus is dead, the woman’s life is saved, her chances of pregnancy are reduced.

To me, clearly, the first is preferable. The church considers the second preferable because it considers acts rather than consequences. For me, the end justifies the means. For them, the need to avoid the wicked act of directly killing the foetus justifies mutilating the mother.

I cite the legal principle that a person is presumed to intend the consequences of their acts. The Catholic doctor knows that the foetus is implanted in the fallopian tube which s/he removes; how can it be said that the doctor does not intend to kill it?

To me, there are situations where moral rules are useful. Do not lie, do not cheat, do not steal; but it seems to me that I follow rules from virtue ethics rather than deontology: I am not the kind of person who does that. This makes me a moral agent, the judge of my own morality, rather than slavishly following rules thought out before consequentialist ethics was conceived.

Catholic position from The Rejection of Pascal’s Wager.

Benozzo_Gozzoli, the Triumph of Aquinas over Averroes

Internalised homophobia

You see, I want to sympathise with the man. However much of a villain he is, he is also a victim.

Disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien still fascinates me. What was he thinking? Possibly, when he was unmasked he was merely a hypocrite: no longer believing any of the doctrines of his church, he still prated what he had to, to maintain his income and power, and access to men for sexual exploitation. Possibly, the homophobia of his church had so hollowed him out that he was no more than that: while St Paul wrote of the Christian being justified, sanctified, glorified, the homophobic church instead took away all truth and honour from the human being, leaving only a husk. Could the truth be more complex?

He would not have started in that way. Quite probably, as a child wanting to be a priest, O’Brien would believe in God the Creator, in Jesus, and even in the human accretions of his church. He would be aware of his sexuality, but be very quiet about it: his church and the wider society, where gay lovemaking was a criminal offence, both told him it was Wrong. Perhaps he thought that God would heal him, or that in celibacy he would find the strength to resist his natural desires.

And then, perhaps, he fell in love.

Honesty, then, would have meant penury, and disgrace in the eyes of his friends, even though honour in the eyes of reasonable people. He would be cut off from his social group, his purpose in life, everything. It would have been better than his final state, but knowing that, then, would have taken rare honesty and insight, which his career would not have prepared him for.

But then, there are so many who find celibacy impossible for them, and find a compromise: cuckolding a parishioner, living with a housekeeper. Perhaps O’Brien’s initial arrangements were not more wrongful than that. Certainly the fact that his partners were male made no moral difference.

Could it be that, at the end, he actually believed what he taught? That gay lovemaking is a serious sin; that all human beings suffer from Original Sin, and that “There is no health in us”, but that regular confession and absolution make it alright? One result of that would be that he would believe consensual sex to be as wicked as the sex he forced. He takes his understanding of right and wrong from his church, rather than from any rational consideration of suffering caused, or the true nature of human beings created by God. The child abuse for which his church has so recently apologised is not an aberration, but a natural consequence of its teachings.

Whatever his case, as well as a monster and wrongdoer, he is a victim, of the thoughtless or cruel homophobia of men he admired and trusted.

Degas, At the Milliner's


I would rather have died than not transitioned. I wanted to die. I had planned to transition, then realised I absolutely had to, Now, when I found myself envying a dying woman. I would have swapped lives with her.

I get read, all the time. Not everyone reads me, but most spot it quickly. I would love to drop into conversation that I am trans, and have someone actually surprised. Sîan might not have spotted it: I was so hot that I took my wig off, and she asked me if I had had cancer- then how did you lose your hair? Stress, I said. If the explanation that I am trans had not occurred to her then, perhaps it would not after.

I don’t know if I would have decided to transition if I had not known of others who had. I cross-dressed without knowing about other people. I might have just dressed female at home. I would have carried on, ashamed and terrified.

I don’t think I have reached my potential. I have been aware of other trans people, had a great deal of support and acceptance, and still suffered shame, and the derision or hatred of a few; and one man could not remain my friend, because he could not see me as a woman.

The Scottish Catholic bishops yesterday apologised to the victims of priests’ sexual abuse. It is a mean, lying apology- deliberately covering up abuse, and attempting to avoid paying proper compensation, is not merely “slow, unsympathetic and uncaring”, but criminal. Yet when I heard of it, I felt such rage. Overwhelmed by the anger of Catholics and others, they make this belated apology, yet they continue to abuse and stunt trans children with their wicked lying teaching that gender reassignment surgery (GRS) and hormone treatments distort the God-designed and God-created human body to the extent that it is a very serious sin.

I wondered what they gained from it. Faced with a person doing something which harms no-one else, which makes them happier, they condemn- to what end? Then there is the evidence of psychological studies that psychotherapy to make someone accept their assigned sex does not work.

Faced with the facts which refute their false understanding of the world, their response is a blank denial. Why? Would they feel uncomfortable to admit they were wrong? Do they wish to simplify God’s creation, and simply deny the bits they do not like? Or do they feel threatened by someone doing something which they would not want to do themselves?

They gain nothing. I enrich the lives of everyone who knows me with my unique perspective on life- just like every free human being. Keith O’Brien, talented enough to be a cardinal, crushed by having to deny his sexuality into a corrupt predator, could have given so much to his church if it had not denied his God-given being. Some people even still oppose equal marriage! They fill me with horror and contempt.

Degas, the milliner's shop